Here at Rotten Ink I love martial arts and not just in comic and movies but also in the world of MMA! Growing up I used to watch Kung-Fu Theater on USA Network and always looked forward to a special they had on USA Network called Kung Fu June, not to mention from time to time Commander USA would host a martial art film. Because of all this I became addicted to watching Kung Fu martial art films. Names like Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and The Shaw Brothers became staples in my young mind and were at the top of the list of stars in this genre. But what also helped kick off my love for Kung Fu films was a book I found at Waynesville Antique Mall called “Kung Fu: Cinema Of Vengeance” by Verina Glaessner that was all about the films and actors of the genre. I learned so much about the genre at a young age thanks to this book and USA Network, not to mention films like The Karate Kid and all the Jean-Claude Van Damme and Chuck Norris action films I grew up watching! So this update is for martial arts fans all over the world who enjoy the art of fighting and self defense.
One of my favorite martial art films I saw on the USA Network was called “Chinese Super Ninjas,” made by The Shaw Brothers in 1982 and is also known as “Five Element Ninjas.” It’s about a young man whose teacher and fellow students are killed by a ninja. Lost and filled with rage, the young man finds a new teacher and fellow students and learns a new style of martial arts. Together with his new friends, he must take on ninjas who represent the elements like wood, water and fire. When I was a late teenager, I moved back to Kettering and was close to a Blockbuster Video (that I would later work many years at) where I picked up a bunch of old martial arts films on VHS in a discount bin for .99 each that included such titles as “Chinese Samson”, “Fearless Hyena”, “Snake Eagle Crane” and one of my personal favorites called “Chinese Hercules” that starred the one and only mountain of muscle Bolo Yeung! Chinese Hercules was made in 1973 and is about a peaceful man who swore off fighting and works for a dock that is taken over by mobsters. The workers are mistreated by him and his muscle bound goon who is the Chinese Hercules. The man is forced to fight to stand up for what’s right. When I started to work for Blockbuster, they where still renting out VHS and during one of our shipments we got a classic martial arts film in for sale. It was called “Five Deadly Venoms,” and I was taken back on how kick ass the film was when I bought it! My friend Jason Gilmore also saw the film around the same time and he was also a super fan and we both cracked up when rapper O.D.B (Old Dirty Bastard) used samples from the film on one of his CD’s. The film was another Shaw Brothers production made in 1978 and follows five students who are trained in many styles based on poisonous animals like snake, toad and scorpion. While all are trained by the same teacher, they all don’t know the true identity of the others and some are good and some are bad. In the end the two sides clash in a breath taking kung-fu showdown! This is just a tiny taste of the martial arts films I truly like but these three are very much at the top of the list of some of my all time favorites. I could also list quite a few Bruce Lee films but I figured I would talk about three that some of you fine readers might not have known about, so if you have not seen any of these and enjoy classic Kung-Fu flicks, I say check them out.
Bolo Yeung is one of my favorite classic Kung-Fu actors and is one of cinema’s best bad guys of the 70’s and 80’s. Yang Sze was born July 3rd 1946 in China and before he became an actor, he was a completive body builder and was Mr. Hong Kong Champion, a title he held for 10 years! Bolo also studied many styles of martial arts from many teachers and mastered the art of self-defense that helped him when he decided to become an actor in action films. Bolo started acting in 1970 in Shaw Brother films with his first role being in a film called “The Wondering Swordsman” and took roles mostly as bad guys in other films like “The Oath Of Death”, “Tiger”, and “The 14 Amazons.” His biggest role was in the Bruce Lee film “Enter The Dragon” where he played a character named Bolo. Many other great roles followed like “Chinese Hercules”, “Soul of Chiba”, “Bolo The Brute”, “Bruce The Superhero” and “Fearless Hyena 3”. In 1988 he played the role of Chong Li in the film “Bloodsport” that starred Jean-Claude Van Damme and would be in another Van Damme film called “Double Impact” in 1991. Bolo continued to star in several action films through the 90’s and into the 2000’s, and it appears he will be in a film this year called “The Whole World At Our Feet”! Love him or hate him, Bolo Yeung is one of the best badass actors who made playing a bad guy cool during his career on the silver screen.
The 1970’s in the world of comic books, most companies rode the wave of the popularity of martial arts films and many great characters came out of this time. Marvel Comics has two popular characters that were hand to hand combat experts, Iron Fist and Shang-Chi The Master of Kung-Fu. Growing up I had issues of both of these characters and with Iron Fist I had mostly the ones were he teamed up with Luke Cage Power Man. For Shang-Chi I had many of his issues and enjoyed them a lot. A couple years back, I had a pretty good run of Master of Kung-Fu’s and like a numb skull I sold them to a web based comic store….I know a run of them would have made a great update. DC Comics had Richard Dragon Kung Fu Fighter and Val Armorr The Karate Kid. I never owned an issue of either of these characters and sad to say had zero interest in both characters. The martial arts was so popular in the 70’s even independent comic companies got into the market of making comics based of karate characters like Charlton’s House of Yang and Hong Kong Phooey based on the popular cartoon. While many of today’s super heroes know karate and martial arts, the magic of the 70’s kung-fu fighters will always live on.
I have been watching The Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC) since the start thanks mostly to my uncle George who would order the PPV and invite us over to watch them with him. It was a blast watching George get worked up over the fights! You see my uncle George is a bad ass when it comes to the martial arts and I am sure could and would have done very well in the early days of UFC. I can remember sitting at his house along with my dad, brother and cousins Dino, Norman and Nick and watching the likes of Don Frye, Royce Gracie and Maurice Smith duke it out and do whatever it took to get the win under their belts. Over the years the sport of MMA and the company UFC have changed, and UFC has become of the biggest mixed martial arts companies in the word running others like Pride FC, Strikeforce and EliteXC out of business. And along this long journey of watching the sport and seeing it evolve, I have a list of fighters that I love and loved watching in the ring and really briefly I would like to share some of them with you. This list is in no order, and I picked my top five MMA stars.
So let’s step into the octagon and see what I would call Rotten Ink’s MMA Hall of Fame Class 1!
Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort has always been one of my favorite fighters ever since I saw him KO the likes of Tank Abbott, Wanderlei Silva and Scott Ferrozzo in the early days of UFC. He is trained in many fighting styles like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, Judo, Shotokan and Boxing with the latter truly being one of his strong suits as Belfort can throw wicked fast punches with knock out power in each strike! Belfort started his fighting career at the age of 19 at an event called SuperBrawl 2 in Hawaii and beat the much larger Jon Hess by KO in 12 seconds into the first round! Some key names he has also beaten in the sport include Gilbert Yvel, Heath Herring, Randy Couture, Marvin Eastman, Rich Franklin, Anthony Johnson, Michael Bisping and Dan Henderson. To this day, Belfort is one of my favorite fighters to watch and here is to hoping that he holds the middleweight title for a long time! His record thus far is 24-11 and his career looks as if it will not be slowing down anytime soon.
Mark “The Hammer” Coleman is the godfather of ground and pound as well as the first ever UFC Heavyweight champion! Much like Vitor I have always been a fan of Mark Colman as in his early days in the sport he was one of the most dominate fighters to step into the octagon and pound his opponent down. Another great thing about Coleman is the fact he is also an Ohio boy who in college was a freestyle wrestler and went to OSU (The Ohio State University) and as well made it to the Olympics. Coleman first entered the UFC in 1996 at the point when each event was a tournament, having the fighters at some points fighting up to three times a night! Coleman’s first fight was against Moti Horenstein that he won when he pounded Moti in to sudmission! Coleman would not stay in the UFC his whole carrer and would go on to become a even bigger star in Japan fighting for Pride FC. In 2009 Coleman made his UFC return at the age of 45 and had a short run before being let go and later retiring from the sport. During his amazing MMA run he went 16-10 and beat such talents as Gary Goodridge, Don Frye, Dan Severn, Igor Vovchanchyn, Mauricio Rua and Stephan Bonnor. Mark Coleman is also in the UFC Hall of Fame and still remains a major figure in the history of MMA.
The World’s Most Dangerous Man Ken Shamrock was the sport’s first major megastar who helped bring MMA into the main stream. Ken was the first fighter to use a shoot style and would show the world that Royce Gracie was human after all as he wore out the legend in a 36 minute fight that ended in a draw. Shamrock also was the head of a training camp called The Lion’s Den that dominated the octagon for years and had/has such fighters as Guy Mezger, Vernon White, Frank Shamrock, Maurice Smith and Roy Nelson showing the talent that has come from his camp. Shamrock fought not only for the UFC but also companies like Pride FC, Rage Cage and Pancrase and was a major draw for each. Ken’s biggest feud in the sport was against Tito Ortiz, and their first fight was one of UFC’s top purchased PPVs. The next three times the fighters stepped into the cage was a draw for viewers. Ken Shamrock was also on the UFC reality TV show called The Ultimate Fighter as well acted in some films like Scarecrow Gone Wild. Ken has victories over such fighters as Bas Rutten, Maurice Smith, Dan Severn and Kimo Leopoldo to name a few. In his career Ken holds a fight record of 28-16-2, and while he has fought this year 2015 and lost in the first round to Kimbo Slice, Shamrock claims he is not retired and might fight sometime again. Ken is trained in many styles of fighting but is best described at a shoot fighter. Ken Shamrock as well is in the UFC Hall Of Fame.
The Huntington Beach Bad Boy Tito Ortiz is one of those fighters you like or hate, and I find myself being a fan of Ortiz who brought back ground and pound to the UFC when he busted onto the scene in 1997. Ortiz early in his career made an impact with fans with his take no crap attitude and his outlandish opinions of his opponents. I mean what other fighter can you name that in a short time could piss off a whole fight camp like the Lions Den and to back up his mouth was able to beat down many of the camp’s top stars! Ortiz has been a Light Heavy Weight Champion, a coach on Ultimate Fighter, a short lived pro wrestler, acted in movies and shows like Zombie Strippers and Crow: Wicked Prayer and married adult film actress Jenna Jameson. Ortiz was never one to keep quiet on things and has had falling outs with UFC and it’s president Dana White on many occasions and most of the times worked things out to return to the octagon. Ortiz is now fighting for Bellator after UFC wanted him to retire from the sport. Ortiz is a well rounded fighter and learned many types of martial arts to become the fighter he is and one of few to be inducted into the UFC Hall Of Fame. Ortiz in his career thus far has wins over such talent as Guy Mezger, Wanderlei Silva, Evan Tanner, Ken Shamrock, Vito Belfort, Forrest Griffin, Ryan Bader and Stephan Bonnar. His record in the sport as of the day this update was posted is 18-11-1 and here is to wishing Ortiz more wins and one last title run.
The Smashing Machine Mark Kerr is a fighter that I feel is often overlooked when people talk about the legends of MMA. Much like Belfort and Coleman, he is a fighter that I have found myself cheering for since he broke into the fighting world. Mark Kerr comes from a collegiate wrestling background and was one of the best at what he did, making people submit and dominating them with his pure power. Mark made his MMA debut in 1997 at World Vale Tudo Championship 3 where he beat down three opponents to win the event and did so with a broken hand! Kerr went on to fight for the UFC where he made a name for himself by smashing the competition. He later went to Pride FC and became a mega star but at the time he was always battling some demons and his career took a hit for it with a string of loses in the company. After Pride, Mark went on to fight for many smaller companies and was a draw for them on his name value. Mark Kerr was the subject of a documentary about his addictions and the sport of MMA for HBO called “The Smashing Machine” that helped open eyes for many about the dangers of addiction and it also showed how competitive MMA is. While later in Mark’s career he had a string of losses those can’t take away the impact of what he contributed to the sport and showed that wrestlers can be top fighters like Mark Coleman before him. I should also state that Kerr is born in Ohio making him one of us! In his career Kerr has victories over the likes of Paul Varelans, Dan Bobish, Nobuhiko Takada and Enson Inoue. Kerr, who is retired, holds a MMA record of 15-11-1, and is sadly not in the UFC Hall of Fame.
I am still a huge fan of MMA, but I seem to think the sport is currently lacking the type of top notch athletes that made the sport from the start, I mean who can look up to the likes of Jon Jones or Chael Sonnen? But one fighter I find myself liking is Rowdy Rhonda Rousey who is a Judo machine who even has Gold Medals from the Olympics to prove it! Rhonda who is only 27 has already won the UFC Light Weight Championship and has starred in many movies like The Expendables 3 and Furious 7 and is sponsored by Reebok Shoes. She has wins over the likes of Miesha Tate, Sara McMann and Alexis Davis and holds an impressive record of 11-0! I am keeping an eye on Rhonda as I feel she is truly the next big thing on the world of MMA, and I see her holding the title for a very long time! Plus she loves Pro Wrestling so she is A-OK in my book!
Well we talked about Kung-Fu films, martial arts comics and MMA so I think it’s time we jump into our comic made by Atlas Comic,s a company you long time readers know I love and learned about thanks to the gone but not forgotten comic shop The Bookie Parlor. But much like the other Atlas titles we have covered in the past, this series disappeared as fast as it appeared as the company folded up thanks to the shelf hogs Marvel and DC who made it impossible to get their issues on the news stands when they would flood the racks with tons of titles at a time. And if you think about it, they both still do it to this day – I mean how many Batman and Avengers titles do we need? The title we are looking at today is so fitting for this update, The Hands Of The Dragon, and follows a masked Kung-Fu hero named The Dragon as he attempts to stop his evil brother and avenge the death of his grandfather. I found this comic at an antique mall so I want to thank that vendor for having it in stock for me to buy and review. So let’s see what The Dragon can do, but before we do, I must remind everyone that I grade this issue on a star scale of 1 to 4 and am looking for how well the comic stays to the source material, its entertainment value and its art and story. So let’s karate chop our way to an adventure packed time.
The Hands Of The Dragon # 1 ***
Released in 1975 Cover Price .25 Atlas Comics #1 of 1
It’s World War II and an old man along with his two baby grandchildren (Wu Ten & Ling) have returned to Japan at a horrible time as the atomic bomb is dropped and the radiation burns the face of Ling badly. The old man goes to the only place he feels safe, the monastery where he grew up. As the kids grow up, Wu Ten is a noble and strong young man who has mastered the art of fighting as has his scarred brother Ling but he is filled with rage and anger and has been hanging around a bad influence named Dr. Nhu. A fight between the brothers leaves their grandfather dead by the tip of a spear thrown by Ling, and this starts a feud between the brothers that leaves them as mortal enemies. The years pass and Wu Ten moves to California and becomes a news anchor. At night he puts on a mask and calls himself The Dragon and is looking for his brother Ling who is now going under the name The Cobra! After he finds a picture taken by co-worker Nicky he finds that Cobra as well as Dr. Nhu are in town and planning on killing the Prime Minister of Japan! During a speech at a college, the Prime Minister is shot by the Cobra as The Dragon is fighting Dr. Nhu who escapes after The Dragon himself is shot by the Prime Minister’s scared bodyguards in the back! In the end at the hospital, the Prime Minister is in a coma but comes out of it thanks to The Dragon who uses a mystic medallion to give him strength. When The Dragon leaves the hospital in the shadows, he knows that he must find his brother and stop his killing rampage.
This is a great Atlas Comic that I had never heard of until I found it at the antique mall, and I must say I am glad I did as I think it was fantastic and had so much potential to be a great martial arts comic series. Sadly I must say that much like the other Atlas Comic series I talked about, The Brute and The Cougar, this series just ends on the promise of a new issue coming that never came to be thanks to the doors of the company closing. The plot of this comic is pure Kung-Fu movie stuff as it has two brothers on two different paths becoming enemies over the death of their “master”. The plot thus far was really well done and easily could have given Marvel’s Master Of Kung-Fu a run for its money. Wu Ten/ The Dragon is a noble and nice young man who defends the defenseless and has a sense of pride in his family and his heritage. He is skilled in hand to hand combat and can shut out pain when it comes to saving lives and stopping bad guys, and I can’t forget that he is super strong. When becoming The Dragon, he wears a mask to hide his face and hides in the shadows much like Batman…in fact The Dragon/ Wu Ten is a combination of one part Peter Parker, a dash of Clark Kent with the appearance of Iron Fist, and for good measure add in some Jackie Chan. Ling/The Cobra is not as fleshed out as his brother. All we really know is that he is badly scarred in the face, he is filled with rage and doesn’t care about taking other people’s lives, he hangs around with shady people and he is not as skilled as his brother. The Cobra/ Ling is a mix of the following: add one splash of Storm Shadow, two parts Shredder with the appearance of Freddy Kruger and the attitude of Bolo Yeung. Dr. Nhu is a man covered in tattoos who is a bad man and is not liked by the monks, and when Ling kills his grandfather this man takes him in. Grandfather is a fighter who did whatever he could do to save his grandchildren whose parents were killed in the war. Grandfather hates war and hates the needless violence of others. I also need to add that Grandfather had radiation poisoning and was able to kill a polar bear with his bare hands….now that’s a badass! It’s a shame that this comic series ended before another issue was able to come out as I would have liked to have seen a little more character development for The Dragon and The Cobra. The art is pretty solid and is done by Jim Craig and holds that 70’s comic feel and also looks like it could be a Marvel Comic in it’s style. Once more Atlas proves why it’s one of my favorite independent comic companies of the past and delivered another action pack character whose life was sadly cut short by lack of rack space at the comic racks at the five and dime stores.
Well it’s the fifth round of this Atlas Comic title fight, and I had a blast taking a trip down memory lane of the old love I had for martial arts films as well as talking about the warriors of MMA that I cheer for as they step into the octagon. But our next update is taking us away from hand to hand combat and into the world of spooky ghosts as we not only take a look at the comic series based on Filmation’s Ghostbusters but I will also go on a local ghost hunt and tell you all the spooky details! So until then, Young Grasshoppers, be active and make sure to take some time to read a comic or three and remember: No Retreat and No Surrender!